There’s a controversy that has engulfed the Weather Channel. A 42-year-old former anchor has accused the network brass at the Weather Channel of washing her out of the a high-ranking job to make way for a hot front of sexy young weather babes.
“Marny Stanier Midkiff, 42, this week filed a lawsuit claiming she was booted in the fall of 2003 as part of a reputed ‘reorganization’ of the storm channel, which she believes was really an excuse to get more young female weathercasters on the air. Midkiff says that, in the months before she was let go, her boss allegedly spoke of female staffers as ‘matronly,’ ‘dowdy’ and ‘nun-like’ and asked that female on-air talent turn up the temperature on their look with more revealing ‘V-neck’ shirts. Midkiff and her attorney claim The Weather Channel also began hiring new young weathercasters starting in 2003 as part of this effort, and the then-41-year-old, who spent 16 years reporting on sun and rain for the network, was left out in the cold. ‘She got tossed aside because The Weather Channel wanted a younger look,’ said Midkiff’s attorney, Daniel Klein. ‘She was one of the top [meteorologists]. She was one of the best they had, but she didn’t fit the image they had in mind.’ He said hires such as weathercasters Alexandra Steele and Nicole Mitchell are among those who demonstrate this trend.”
After this story, there’s no doubt going to be a beeline to the Weather Channel to try to find Alexandra Steele and Nicole Mitchell and find out what’s up. “Klein’s office also provided a picture of what was called the “new look” of the channel, in which recently hired meteorologists wear hotter-looking low-cut blouses.” Wow. Wow. Why don’t they just — well, you might call it global warming at the Weather Channel, but I wonder if any of these new hires have been former school teachers. (Clearing throat). “According to Midkiff’s suit, filed in Atlanta federal court–” The wording of this story just cracks me up. I’m just going to read it to you as it’s written. “–the forecast looked sunny for the veteran meteorologist in early 2003 as she was promoted to be a high-level manager of the other on-air talent. But Midkiff claims her boss, programming chief Terry Connelly, was becoming convinced the older look of the staff was costing The Weather Channel viewers. ‘Connelly openly expressed animosity toward older female [meteorologists],’ the suit says. ‘He spoke freely of his goal to ‘young up’ The Weather Channel. At one point, Connelly announced, ‘We’re old and we can’t be… Our ratings are going down.’ The worst for Midkiff came in August of 2003 when Connelly held an ‘open forum’ in which he said viewers thought the network’s female weathercasters looked too old.”
Okay. Look, you know, I don’t want to get in the midst — I mean there’s a number of obvious things you could say here, but the Weather Channel, most of what you see there is maps and cold fronts and hot fronts and storms and this sort of stuff. I remember — this is not anything new. I remember when I was in Kansas City, I was in Kansas City from 1975 to 1984, and when I was there — you remember when Ted Turner hired Catherine Crier to be a prime time news anchorette? She had no news experience whatsoever. She was a judge. She was a judge in Texas out of SMU law school. And he put her in there because she was hot. She was attractive and television is a visual media. I mean, there’s a reason people that can do nothing other than read a TelePrompTer get paid what they’re paid because there aren’t a whole lot — let’s be honest about it, folks. There aren’t a whole lot of us — and you know who I’m talking about — that you could put on TV that you’d sit there and watch for a half our or an hour. Now, you people who think two-tone green leisure suits from Kmart are cool, you’re never going to make it on television. This is the great unspoken truth about TV. It is visual and that’s why people watch.
For all this talk about what television is doing to the modern woman and so forth, I mean the consumers run it. They’re the boss, the ratings and so forth. I mean reality is reality. I remember in Kansas City, let me finish this story, just like Catherine Crier, a local TV station went and got a weather babe that had never done weather before. And let me just describe this woman. When she stood at the map, on the east coast and facing the west coast, just stood there facing the west coast, the first state you could see was Kansas. You could see a little bit of Florida, you could see a little bit of the southeast, but north of that, you saw nothing but Kansas. I’ll tell you this, she became the rage of the town. She became the rage of the town and it didn’t matter about the weather. They clamored for more time segments, or segment time for the weather, or what have you. But, you know, I also understand the ageism complaint in television as well. That’s something that men are never going to face there that women obviously will. At any rate, just wanted to alert you to this story coming out of Atlanta and the Weather Channel.
Here’s a story you may not have heard. I haven’t seen it anywhere. I just found it on the ESPN website. Nicolette Sheridan, a story with her disrobing in front of the Terrell Owens as an opening to Monday night football. Apparently it has had such an impact that the Fox Sports network has refused to air a commercial that stars Mickey Rooney. Fox has rejected a proposed ad for Airborne, the natural cold remedy. I never heard of it. This ad reveals Mickey Rooney’s 84-year-old rear end. In the commercial, Mickey Rooney freaks out when somebody coughs behind him in a sauna. He jumps up screaming, heads for the door with his towel slipping in the confusion, bearing his 84-year-old rump for about two seconds. This is in USA Today as well and the Fox Sports network has refused to run the ad. All right, Lou in Massapequa, New York, welcome, sir, you are on Open Line Friday. Hi.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush, for taking my call.
RUSH: You bet.
CALLER: You were just discussing women on television and the good-looking the better.
RUSH: I was not. No, no, no, I was not. I was reporting a story about a lawsuit from a woman that used to work at the Weather Channel.
CALLER: That’s correct. I’m sorry about that. I’m thinking that in this day and age of large screens, HDTV, when I’m looking at large screens, some of the men that are my age — I’m 57 — start looking pretty bad. I mean, there’s only so much I can do with makeup but every blemish, every age spot, even shows up on men and it’s a little disconcerting to look to it. It’s distracting as they try to give me whatever message they want to give me. It distracts from the message if I’m looking at their face and I’m looking at the wrinkles on their neck.
RUSH: What are you saying?
CALLER: I’m saying that I think that —
RUSH: You only want perfection on television? Is that what you’re saying?
CALLER: No, I don’t want that, but I think the trend — because of this large screen and HD — probably would tend to make the on-screen personalities younger and — younger just because of their youthfulness and how they look on screen.
RUSH: Well, it may be. Depending on the kind of programming you’re talking about that may be. I of course am a videophile myself. I don’t watch a whole lot of television. When I do, I try to watch as much as possible that’s in HD. I know that most people don’t have HD and haven’t really taken time to look at it because you look at your TV picture now and you think, “Well, I don’t know how it can be much better. And I don’t care how much better it is, I’m not going to invest all the money in what these HD things cost,” ta-da, ta-da, ta-da. And I never was of that point of view because I’ve always sought the best picture I could get from a VCR, from whatever I was doing. That’s why I originally went to Direct TV because it was a better picture than any cable system I ever saw. And I’m telling you, folks, HD is unbelievable. I have two of them in this studio here. I’ve got 8, 9 of them at home. One of them is a 12 foot screen, one of them is a 7 foot screen. I got plasmas all over the place and I’m telling you, there is nothing like it. And it doesn’t matter what you’re watching. Where it’s the least noticeable is movies and film, although they’re great, they’re better. You get live HD on sports or videotape HD, and sometimes even film if they’ve really been careful with it. Some of these animal shows.
If you think you’ve seen animals eating animals on regular TV, you don’t know what you’re missing until you see animals eating animals on HD. If you’ve seen a wildebeest torn apart by a hyena on your regular TV you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen this on HD. It does show the blemishes. I’m going to admit something. I got in bed early last night because I have a huge weekend planned. So I got in bed early and I have a plasma that is in the bedroom, and it’s an HD plasma. So I fired it up and I had had on HBO for some reason the night before, which was the last channel on when I turned it off. So the TV pops out of the little doodad at the end of the bed. It’s popping up and I turn it on and they’re running a 45 minute show on pornography. To me, it was literally disgusting. I was listening to all these porn stars talk about how this industry enables them to be who they really are. And they love having people look at them. And they love making the money. It’s either this or wait tables at the IHOP. Something like that. And it was men and women, and they were discussing their careers seriously, and the vast majority of the show was of the female and male porn stars going into some studio being photographed for their still shots that would promote what was upcoming in their latest porn gig. And of course it was full 130% frontal, side, and back nudity, and in HD, I’m telling you what, half those people would have looked a lot better with clothes on.
He’s got a point here. That’s a long way around to saying he’s got a point, because it does show up blemishes and pockmarks and things that regular TV doesn’t display. It shows bald spots. You don’t want to know how Nancy Pelosi looks — frankly I haven’t seen Nancy Pelosi on HD because no — I’m only guessing what it would look like — but no newscast has gone HD, and they’re probably going be the last to do it because it’s an expensive transformation. The law is only requiring broadcast outlets to do it. A lot of the sports networks that are — ESPN — you ought to see Sports Center on HD. I tell you, folks, it is incredible. There’s no question about it. I’m a huge believer in it. Much more so than I thought. And no matter, I don’t know care how good of standard broadcast picture you’ve got, you can’t imagine the difference. You literally can’t. “Well, I don’t want to go to that long — that movie sized.” You have no choice. But if you get the right kind of receiver, you can still hold onto your four-three TV and crop the HD picture and get a full-fledged HD picture in your four-three proportion. Ask your kid if you don’t know what I’m talking about.